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WEST LAFAYETTE – Sometime during the 2012-13 men's basketball season, Purdue guard D.J. Byrd is going to bury a number of shots from various locales on Keady Court and the “Paint Crew” is going to go ballistic.
That success can be traced to Thursday, where Byrd is spending “three to four hours” in an empty Mackey Arena working on his craft, as well as adding to it.
“D.J. is a kid that you don't have to worry about putting in the time to get better,” Boilermaker associate head coach Jack Owens said. “He's a guy that in the summer you don't have to worry about getting extra shots up or spending time improving his overall skill.”
Byrd is a prototypical gym rat even in the heat of the summer, which is the most valuable time to transform yourself from a little-used reserve who struggles to shoot into the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.
“It's working on your game and getting repetitions,” Byrd said of his summer training. “Different scenarios, different shots, moving off of screens, working on those things and getting a high volume of repetitions.”
Byrd came to West Lafayette with high expectations, but quickly learned that the adjustment from the Sagamore Conference (which North Montgomery High School competed in) to the Big Ten was a difficult one. He played less than 10 minutes per game and shot just 27 percent from the perimeter.
“I was shocked by all of the great players that Purdue had,” Byrd said. “The minutes that I got my freshman year, you are taking maybe one to two shots per game.”
That dose of reality has long since passed and Byrd enters this season as the Boilermakers' leading returning scorer. He knocked down 43 percent of his three-point shots as a junior and averaged 8.9 points per game in nearly 20 minutes of time each game. The Purdue coaches now see a much more confident Byrd out on the floor.
“I think it's confidence,” Purdue assistant coach Greg Gary said. “He's putting in more time, more hours in the gym. In turn, that gives you more confidence because you've done it over and over and over again.”
Even more so than Byrd's improved shooting, Gary expects to see strides from Byrd off of the court as well.
“When you become a senior, you know that this is your last go at it,” Gary said. “You mature more and you understand that I can't get this back.”
Byrd has evolved into a serious threat from long range (ask Minnesota or Ohio State about that), but there is another aspect that he is addressing – more than likely as you read this.
“When the defense runs me off of the three-point line, being able to take that one- or two-dribble pull-up jumper,” Byrd said of his focus of late. “I'm really trying to utilize that more in my game. I think that will help me and help the team the best.”